An explosion on a cargo carrier sailing in the Atlantic Monday morning left two crew members dead and at least two others injured.
The international cargo ship Tamar radioed the U.S. Coast Guard early Monday morning and reported an explosion in their forward storeroom. The explosion initially killed one crew member and severely burned three others. A second sailor succumbed to their wounds shortly after, according to CBS Baltimore.
The U.S. Coast Guard is coordinating with the Canadian and Portuguese Coast Guards and the New York Air National Guard to help the injured crew members receive medical attention. Rescue crews reached the ship late Monday night. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Ships are some of the most dangerous and stressful working environments, with workers often facing extreme weather, long stretches at sea, and even fires and explosions.
Fishing and related fishing workers have the second highest fatality rate of all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In recognition of the danger working on the high seas presents there are serious protections that guarantee sailors can get the help they need in the wake of an accident.
Understanding Your Rights On and Off the Water
Seeking workers’ compensation for an injury on a ship is similar to a submitting a claim on the land, but sailors and harbor workers are uniquely protected under the Jones Act and several other laws.
Like claims made on land, sailors can apply for workers’ compensation, a type of insurance employers must carry. It is a no-fault insurance that provides medical and living expenses for workers while they recover from their injury. Employees can also bring claims against third parties such as a manufacturer or contractor if another’s negligence contributed to their injuries.
Sailors are unique, and they receive all the benefits mentioned above in addition to several special privileges provided by the Jones Act that further improve their situation. Many times, workers’ compensation requires an “independent medical examination” — an examination conducted by a doctor assigned the insurance company. These IMEs can limit the company’s liability and decrease your chances for a reasonable payout. But sailors have the guarantee of immediate medical attention as a result of injury or disease, regardless of fault.
The Jones Act also allows employees to file claims against their employers if there is evidence of negligence, like your employer operating an unseaworthy vessel. Sailors, like regular workers, can file claims against third parties if their negligence contributed to an injury.
Boat based employees can also file Maintenance and Cure claims, which require employers to provide for necessities like food and rent to injured sailors until they are fit for duty again. In short, there are many opportunities for recovery following your injury that you might need to return to your practice. An attorney can help determine your best course of action.
The Tamar’s crew will receive treatment from American and Canadian medical responders for their burns before the ship sails to Portugal.
(Editor’s Note: This is a news story from the ‘Morgan Monitor,’ a news wire offering legal perspectives on news in your community.)
Feature Photo: A picture of the Tamar in 2011 photographed by John Wilson in Brisbane, Australia. Uploaded to shipspotting.com.